By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - The Fort Pierce City Commission has met twice in workshops to discuss the city's budget for fiscal year 2013.
But with home values still in decline, the balance to maintain quality services with decreased projected revenue becomes harder to accept.
The taxable property value for a home in Fort Pierce dropped by 4.76 percent for 2012, according to the St. Lucie County property appraiser's office.
Also, Gloria Johnson, the finance director for the city, reported at a recent city commission meeting that more residents didn't pay their taxes last year, which resulted in less revenue collected.
During the first workshop on July 13, city commissioners were against raising taxes and instead discussed ways to increase revenue. During the second workshop, however, they were more open to raising the millage rate to 5.7131 percent. The increase in the tax rate would balance the proposed budget of $32.3 million, an increase of approximately .4 percent from last year's $32.2 million budget.
According to a memo from Nick Mimms, interim city manager, increasing the rate will result in approximately $10 million in increased revenue for the city, but will still be $105,270 less than the revenue received last year.
Part of the reason for the increase in this year's budget is the addition of nine police officers and two switchboard operators to the city's payroll.
The officers were funded by a federal grant that has since expired, and the city is now fully responsible for their salaries, which increases the budget by $312,341.
Also written into the budget is a 2 percent salary increase for all city employees, as well as a health premium increase of 3.3 percent.
As far as other spending goes, the budget addresses some older equipment.
"The telecommunications for the city of Fort Pierce is rapidly deteriorating and is negatively affecting communication with the community," Mr. Mimms wrote. "Obsolete telephones, workstations and connected networks have hindered this organization."
The meeting scheduled for Aug. 29 to discuss the budget further has been cancelled, so the next meetings concerning the budget will all be held in September.
The first meeting on Sept. 4 will be a public hearing on the tentative budget, followed by a public hearing on Sept. 17 to announce the millage rate the city will use in the upcoming year.
The final meeting will be held on Sept. 24 when a public meeting will be held to officially adopt the millage rate and budget.